Tesla Autopilot was engaged before 2018 California crash, NTSB finds – gpgmail


A Tesla Model S was in Autopilot mode —the company’s advanced driver assistance system — when it crashed into a fire truck in Southern California last year, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Reuters was the first to the report on the contents of the public documents. A final accident brief, including NTSB’s determination of probable cause, is scheduled to be published Wednesday.

The crash, involving a 2014 Tesla Model S, occurred Jan. 22, 2018 in Culver City, Calif.  The Tesla had Autopilot engaged for nearly 14 minutes when it struck a fire truck that was parked on Interstate 405. The driver was not injured in the crash and the fire truck was unoccupied.

Tesla has not commented on the report. gpgmail will update if the company provides a statement.

The report found that the driver’s hands were not on the wheel for the vast majority of that time despite receiving numerous alerts. Autopilot was engaged in the final 13 minutes and 48 seconds of the trip and the system detected driver-applied steering wheel torque for only 51 seconds of that time, the NTSB said. Other findings include:

  • The system presented a visual alert regarding hands-off operation of the Autopilot on 4 separate occasions.
  • The system presented a first level auditory warning on one occasion; it occurred following the first visual alert.
  • The longest period during which the system did not detect driver-applied steering wheel torque was 3 minutes and 41 seconds.

In the 2018 crash into a fire truck, the vehicle was operating a “Hardware Version 1” and a firmware version that had been installed via an over-the-air software update on December 28, 2017. The technology provided a number of convenience and safety features, including forward, lane departure and side collision warnings and automatic emergency braking as well as its adaptive cruise control and so-called Autosteer features, which when used together

While the report didn’t find any evidence that the driver was texting or calling in the moments leading up to the crash, a witness told investigators that he was looking down at what appear to be a smartphone. It’s possible that the driver was holding a coffee or bagel at the time of the crash, the report said.

Autopilot has come under scrutiny by the NTSB, notably a 2016 fatal crash in Florida and a more recent one involving a Walter Huang, who died after his Model X crashed into a highway median in California. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also opened an inquiry into the 2016 fatal crash and ultimately found no defects in the Autopilot system. NTSB determined the 2016 fatal crash was caused by a combination of factors that included limitations of the system.

The family of Huang filed in May 2019 a lawsuit against Tesla and the State of California Department of Transportation. The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara, alleges that errors by Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system caused the crash.




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Watch the Porsche Taycan make a 0-90-0 test run on the USS Hornet flight deck – gpgmail


Porsche is squeezing in one more teaser ahead of the global debut of the all-electric Porsche Taycan. And this time, the German automaker didn’t hold back.

Professional racer Shea Holbrook drove a prototype Taycan from a standstill up to 90.58 miles per hour (145 km/h), then slammed on the brakes back to zero all within 10.7 seconds. Shea accelerated the Taycan to 90.58 mph in just 422 feet before braking hard.

If that wasn’t splashy enough, Porsche took it up a level and conducted the demonstration on the flight deck of the USS Hornet, the 27,500-ton aircraft carrier used to recover astronauts from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions to the moon. You can watch the entire test run in the video below.

Yes, this is gratuitous automotive theater and a marketing ploy. It’s also a spectacularly fun way to show off the stability and performance of Porsche’s big bet on electric vehicles.

Now, the 0-90-0 run falls short of the traditional 0-100-0 tests. It’s not clear why Porsche didn’t make a 0-100-0 run, although available space might have been a factor.porsche taycan uss hornet 001

Stefan Weckbach, vice president of the Taycan product line, admitted that the demonstration was “some kind of fun testing than a completely serious one.” But he added that it was a fitting way to demonstrate the power of the car as it nears the end of its development.

On a tough, changeable surface the Taycan’s composure, its incredible acceleration and stopping power were absolutely impressive – though we decided not to take it to the max, just to reach the 0-100 mph margin.” Weckbach said. While I was completely sure both Shea and the car could achieve something special, I’m really relieved no one went for a swim.”

 

Holbrook said that despite appearances, the deck was quite bumpy.

“Deliberately accelerating towards thin air and the ocean is a new experience for me, but the Taycan gave me a huge amount of confidence — it was really stable but under acceleration and, more importantly, under braking,” she added.

porsche taycan uss hornet 021

 


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Tesla’s Model 3 interior (even the steering wheel) is now 100% leather-free – gpgmail


Tesla said Saturday that its Model 3 interiors are now completely free of leather, fulfilling a promise made by CEO Elon Musk at this year’s annual shareholder meeting.

Tesla has been closing in on a leather-free interior for a couple of years now. But a sticking point was the steering wheel, which Musk made mention of at the company’s shareholder meeting in June in response to a request from PETA activist.

I believe we were close to having a non-heated steering wheel, that’s not leather,” Musk said at the time.There are some challenges when when heat the non-leather material and also how well it wears over time.”

Musk said Model Y and Model 3 would be vegan by 2020. He wasn’t sure if the company would be able to meet that same goal for the Model S and X.

 

 

Activist shareholders made a proposal in 2015 that Tesla no longer use animal-derived leather in the interiors of its electric vehicles by 2019. While stockholders rejected that proposal, Tesla did begin rolling out more “vegan” interior components in its cars.

The company began by offering leather-free seats as an option. Two years ago, Tesla made the synthetic material standard in its Model 3, Model X and Model S vehicles.


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Come along, take a ride – gpgmail


From afar, Olli resembles many of the “future is now!” electric autonomous shuttles that have popped up in recent years.

The tall rectangular pod, with its wide-set headlights and expansive windows nestled between a rounded frame, gives the shuttle a friendly countenance that screams, ever so gently, “come along, take a ride.”

But Olli is different in almost every way, from how it’s produced to its origin story. And now, its maker, Local Motors, has given Olli an upgrade in hopes of accelerating the adoption of its autonomous shuttles.

Meet Olli 2.0, a 3D-printed connected electric autonomous shuttle that Rogers says will hasten its ubiquity.

“The future is here; it’s just not evenly distributed,” Local Motors co-founder and CEO John B. Rogers Jr. said in a recent interview. “That’s something I say a lot. Because people often ask me, ‘Hey, when will I see this vehicle? 2023? What do you think?’ My response: It’s here now, it’s just not everywhere.”

Whether individuals will adopt Rogers’ vision of the future is another matter. But he argues that Olli 1.0 has already been a persuasive ambassador.

Olli 1.0 made its debut in 2016 when it launched in National Harbor, Md., at a planned mixed-use development a few miles south of Washington, D.C. In the two years since, Olli has shown up at events such as LA Automobility, and been featured by various media outlets, including this one.  Heck, even James Cordon rode in it.

Local Motors, which was founded in 2007, and its Olli 1.0 shuttle are familiar figures in the fledgling autonomous vehicle industry. But they’re often overshadowed by the likes of Argo AI, Cruise, Uber and Waymo — bigger companies that are all pursuing robotaxis designed for cities.

Olli, meanwhile, is designed for campuses, low-speed environments that include hospitals, military bases and universities.

“The public isn’t going to see New York City with autonomous vehicles running around all the time (any time soon),” Rogers said. Campuses, on the other hand, are a sweet spot for companies like Local Motors that want to deploy now. These are places where mobility is needed and people are able to get up close and personal with a “friendly robot” like Olli, Rogers said. 

Olli 2.0

Olli and Olli 2.0 are clearly siblings. The low-speed vehicle has the same general shape, and a top speed of 25 miles per hour. And both have been crash tested by Local Motors and come with Level 4 autonomous capability, a designation by the SAE that means the vehicle can handle all aspects of driving in certain conditions without human intervention.

Olli 2.0 has a lot more range — up to 100 miles on a single charge, according to its spec sheet. The manufacturing process has been improved, and Olli 2.0 is now 80% 3D-printed and has hub motors versus the axle wheel motors in its predecessor. In addition, there are two more seats in Olli 2.0 and new programmable lighting.

But where Olli 2.0 really stands out is in the improved user interface and more choices for customers looking to customize the shuttle to suit specific needs. As Rogers recently put it, “We can pretty much make anything they ask for with the right partners.”

Local-Motors-Olli -2.0

The outside of Olli 2.0 is outfitted with a PA system and screens on the front and back to address pedestrians. The screen in the front can be shown as eyes, making Olli 2.0 more approachable and anthropomorphic.

Inside the shuttle, riders will find better speakers and microphones and touchscreens. Local Motors has an open API, which allows for an endless number of UI interfaces. For instance, LG is customizing media content for Olli based on the “5G future,” according to Rogers, who said he couldn’t provide more details just yet.

AR and VR can also be added, if a customer desires. The interior can be changed to suit different needs as well. For instance, a hospital might want fewer seats and more room to transport patients on beds. It’s this kind of customization that Rogers believes will give Local Motors an edge over autonomous shuttle competitors.

Local-Motors-Olli-2.0-Interior

Even the way Olli 2.0 communicates has been improved.

Olli 1.0 used IBM Watson, the AI platform from IBM, for its natural language and speech to text functions. Olli 2.0 has more options. Natural language voice can use Amazon’s deep learning chatbot service Lex and IBM Watson. Customers can choose one or even combine them. Both can be altered to make the system addressable to “Olli.”

The many people behind Olli

In the so-called race to deploy autonomous vehicles, Local Motors is a participant that is difficult to categorize or label largely due to how it makes its shuttles.

It’s not just that Local Motors’ two micro factories — at its Chandler, Ariz. headquarters and in Knoxville, Tenn. — are a diminutive 10,000 square feet. Or that these micro factories lack the tool and die and stamping equipment found in a traditional automaker’s factory. Or even that Olli is 3D-printed.

A striking and perhaps less obvious difference is how Olli and other creations from Local Motors, and its parent company Local Motors Industries, come to life. LMI has a co-creation and low-volume local production business model. The parent company’s Launch Forth unit manages a digital design community of tens of thousands of engineers and designers that co-creates products for customers. Some of those mobility creations go to Local Motors, which uses its low-volume 3D-printed micro factories to build Olli and Olli 2.0, as well as other products like the Rally Fighter.

This ability to tap into its community and its partnerships with research labs, combined with direct digital manufacturing and its micro factories, is what Rogers says allows it to go from design to mobile prototype in weeks, not months — or even years.

The company issues challenges to the community. The winner of a challenge gets a cash prize and is awarded royalties as the product is commercialized. In 2016, a Bogota, Colombia man named Edgar Sarmiento won the Local Motors challenge to design an urban public transportation system. His design eventually became Olli.

(Local Motors uses the challenges model to determine where Olli will be deployed, as well.)

New design challenges are constantly being launched to improve the UI and services of Olli, as well as other products. But even that doesn’t quite capture the scope of the co-creation. Local Motors partners with dozens of companies and research organizations. Its 3D-printing technology comes from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Olli itself involves a who’s who in the sensor, AV and supplier communities.

Startup Affectiva provides Olli’s cognition system, such as facial and mood tracking of its passengers and dynamic route optimization, while Velodyne, Delphi, Robotic Research and Axis Communications handle the perception stack of the self-driving shuttle, according to Local Motors. Nvidia and Sierra Wireless provide much of the Human Machine Interface. Other companies that supply the bits and pieces to Olli include Bosch, Goodyear, Protean and Eastman, to name just a few.

Where in the world is Olli?

Today, Olli 1.0 is deployed on nine campuses, the most recent ones at the Joint Base Myer – Henderson Hall, a joint base of the U.S. military located around Arlington, Va., which is made up of Fort Myer, Fort McNair and Henderson Hall. Olli was also introduced recently in Rancho Cordova, near Sacramento, Calif.

Production of Olli 2.0 began in July and deliveries will begin in the fourth quarter of this year. In the meantime, three more Olli shuttle deployments are coming up in the next six weeks or so, according to Local Motors, which didn’t provide further details.

Production of Olli 1.0 will phase out in the coming months as customer orders are completed. Olli will soon head to Europe, as well, with Local Motors planning to build its third micro factory in the region.


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VW Group to pay $96.5M to settle inflated fuel economy lawsuit – gpgmail


VW Group of America said Friday it has reached an agreement with thousands of U.S. customers over alleged inflated fuel economy information on about 98,000 gas-powered vehicles from its four brands, Audi, Bentley, Porsche and Volkswagen.

The agreement involves alleged misinformation about fuel economy on 98,000 vehicles, or about 3.5% of the model year 2013-2017 VW Group vehicles sold or leased in the United States. The fuel economy will be restated to reflect a discrepancy of one mile per gallon, when rounded according to the U.S.-specific “Monroney” label requirements, according to the EPA.

Most of the vehicles affected by the overstatement of fuel economy were from Audi, Bentley and Porsche, including the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Audi A8L, RS7 and S8 vehicles. Other affected models include variants of the Porsche Cayenne such as the Cayenne S and Cayenne Turbo.

Volkswagen does not admit wrongdoing under the terms of the settlement.

Eligible customers will receive payments ranging from $5.40 to $24.30 for each month the vehicle is owned or leased. The total value of the settlement, which is subject to court approval, is $96.5 million, according to VW.

Volkswagen Group of America will also adjust its Greenhouse Gas credits to account for any excess credits associated with the fuel economy discrepancy.

Potential claimants will have to submit a claim to receive compensation. However, owners do not need to take any action at this time. Individual class members will receive information about their rights and options (including the option to “opt out” of the settlement agreement) if the court grants preliminary approval of the proposed agreement, according to VW.


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Didi Chuxing to launch self-driving rides in Shanghai and expand them beyond China by 2021 – gpgmail


Didi Chuxing will begin picking up ride-hailing passengers with self-driving cars in Shanghai in just a few months, according to company CTO Zhang Bo (via Reuters). The plan is to roll out autonomous pick-ups in Shanghai first, starting in one district of the city, and then expand the program from there – finally culminating in the deployment of self-driving vehicles outside of China by 2021.

Like Uber’s autonomous test vehicles, Didi’s cars will be staffed with a human driver on board during the initial launch period, which awaits a few remaining licenses before it can actually begin serving human passengers. Self-driving rides will be free for customers, and Zhang said that more than 30 different vehicles will be offered for self-driving trips as part of the pilot.

After its initial pilot launch in Shanghai, Didi will look to expand its offerings to Beijing and Shenzhen as well, with hopes to be live in all three cities by 2020.

Didi is the largest ride-hailing company in China, and beat out an attempt by Uber to establish a presence in the market, resulting in Uber selling its Chinese business to Didi and exiting the market in 2016 (in exchange for a minority stake). We spoke to Didi’s CTO (who asked to be identified by as ‘Bob’ at the time, hence the lower-third in the video below) later that same year about why the company believes it has an advantage when it comes to data-driven technology development relative to Uber and other ride-hailing companies.

Aside from a general sense in the industry that autonomy is a likely, if not inevitable end goal for ride-hailing and other mobility services with a technological focus, Didi is also likely motivated by a need for drivers to meet demand – and drivers who can provide a safe and secure experience for passengers. The company revealed in July that it had proved over 300,000 drivers that didn’t meet up to its safety standards after overhauling those standards last year.

Earlier this month, Didi also announced that it was spinning out its autonomous driving unit as a separate company, with Zhang as CEO. It’ll look to develop tech for its own fleet, and work in partnership with automakers, including Toyota, in pursuit of commercializing and deploying autonomous driving.


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Porsche expands on-demand subscription plans to four more cities – gpgmail


Porsche is expanding two on-demand subscription programs to several more U.S. cities and into Canada.

The German automaker announced Thursday it will expand its monthly subscription program Porsche Passport and its shorter-term Porsche Drive plan to Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego and Toronto. Both programs will continue to be offered in Atlanta through local dealers.

The expansion suggests that Porsche’s experimentation with subscriptions has attracted enough new customers to warrant taking it on the road.

Porsche created the programs because consumers increasingly want more flexibility, more individual choice, and to have this on their mobile devices, Porsche North America President and CEO Klaus Zellmer said in the announcement.

The goal is to build a new customer base of Porsche owners. Zellmer’s comments suggest that the programs are having the desired effect.

“This innovative approach to the Porsche experience has already opened the door to an entirely new clientele,” Zellmer said. “In our first year and a half, more than 80% of Passport members in the Atlanta pilot were not previous Porsche owners.”

Both plans give customers access to up 20 current model variants in its portfolio. Porsche Passport is a monthly plan that gives its members unlimited swaps between models.

The cheapest version of the plan, which is a flat monthly fee of $2,100, gives members access to eight model variants. A more expensive $3,100 plan includes another 12 higher performing variants. Passport requires an activation fee of $595, and membership approval is dependent on a background and credit check.

Porsche Drive, which spun out of the Passport program, is designed for those who want occasional access — perhaps for a date or a weekend getaway — to its luxury SUVs and sports cars. Members can rent a Porsche for a minimum of four hours under Porsche Drive. Prices for Porsche Drive range from $269 for four hours in a Macan, 718 Cayman or Boxster all the way to $2,909 for weekly usage of a 911. The Porsche Drive prices do not include taxes or other fees.

Under both plans, the vehicles are ordered through the Passport app and then delivered and picked up by a concierge at the customer’s preferred location.

The Passport program was first launched in 2017 in Atlanta. During the pilot, the average subscription has been about four months. The most common reason customers suspended their membership was due extended travel plans, according to the company. This indicates that the month-to-month model provides the flexibility customers desire.

Passport users swap models on average 2.5 times per month, according to Porsche. The company also said that more than 50% of members flip their vehicles at home, close to 30% swap their vehicle at work, and the remaining exchanges occur in other locations, such as a coffee shop or restaurant.

The technology platform for the program will be managed by Clutch Technologies, a company that has been part of the pilot from the start. The expansion of Passport and Drive includes a new role for Porsche dealer partners in all five cities. Dealers will now oversee the customer experience and the fleet, including its concierge vehicle delivery and maintenance.


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Tesla promises up to 30% lower rates with new car insurance play – gpgmail


Tesla said Wednesday it has launched an insurance product, promising owners of its electric vehicles to deliver rates 20% and even as high as 30% lower than other insurance providers.

For now, the product known as Tesla Insurance, will only be available to owners in California. The business will expand to additional U.S. state in the future, Tesla said without naming where or providing a timeline.

The announcement follows Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s promise back in April that the company would launch an insurance product “in about a month.” At the time, he said it would be “much more compelling than anything else out there.”

The company argues that Tesla Insurance will be able provide insurance at a lower cost by leveraging the “advanced technology, safety, and serviceability of our cars.” In short, Tesla is saying that it deep insight and familiarity with its own vehicles gives it a better understanding of the technology and repair costs. This helps eliminate fees taken by traditional insurance carriers.

Tesla says the cost of each policy will be based on an individual’s driving record and “other factors that can typically impact a person’s insurance rates.” The company says it won’t, however, use or record vehicle data, such as GPS or vehicle camera footage, when pricing insurance.

That policy seems in direct conflict with Musk’s comments during a first-quarter earnings call with analysts in April when he said Tesla has an “information arbitrage opportunity, explaining that it’s able to capture driving data, giving the company direct knowledge of the risk profile of the driver and car.

If customers want to buy Tesla insurance they might have to agree to “not drive the car in a crazy way,” Musk said at the time. He later added that they can drive crazy, they’ll just have a higher insurance rate.

Tesla insurance won’t cover commercial services such as using the vehicle for ride-hailing or car-sharing services.

Owners looking to insure multiple Tesla vehicles may also be eligible for further discounts, the company said,

Existing Tesla customers in California, and eventually owners in other states, are able to purchase a policy through a dedicated webpage. Customers ordering new vehicles can request a quote prior to delivery once a VIN has been assigned to their Tesla Account, according to the company.


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Bestmile raises $16.5 million to manage human and AI-driven fleets – gpgmail


Bestmile, a transportation software startup, has raised $16.5 million in a Series B round led by Blue Lagoon Capital and TransLink Capital.

Existing investors Road Ventures, Partech, Groupe ADP, Airbus Ventures, Serena and others also participated in the round. The company, which launched in 2014, has raised $31 million to date.

Bestmile has developed fleet management software that orchestrates the delicate balance between demand for, and supply of transportation. Managing fleets isn’t new. However, the emergence of new and varied ways for people and packages to move within cities has created new opportunities for software companies.

Bestmile is aiming to become the preferred platform for public transit operators, automakers and taxi companies that offer ride-hailing, microtransit, autonomous shuttle services and even robotaxis. While Bestmile emphasizes the ability of the platform to manage more futuristic means of travel, namely autonomous shuttles, fleet management software is designed to be agnostic. This means it will work for human-driven fleets like traditional taxi cabs as well as autonomous shuttles and, someday, robotaxis.

The startup’s investors also see opportunities for the platform that extend beyond microtransit, ride-hailing and autonomous shuttles. For instance, Airbus Ventures sees Bestmile as a key enabler for urban air mobility, according to Thomas d’Halluin, a managing partner at the Airbus’ venture arm.

The platform works by collecting real-time data such as weather, traffic, demand and vehicle telemetry. It then uses the data to squeeze the most out of the fleet. That means balancing demand from customers with the cost of operations.

The startup, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland and has an office in San Francisco, already has a number of customers, including autonomous shuttle operators. The company’s software is managing 15 deployments globally. Bestmile announced earlier this week that it has partnered with Beep, an autonomous shuttle company in Orlando, Fla.

Blue Lagoon partners Rodney Rogers and Kevin Reid have joined Bestmile’s board. Rogers is now board chairman. The pair, which have first-hand experience as co-founders, should be able to provide the kind of insight needed to scale a company. Rogers and Reid co-founded enterprise cloud services company Virtustream, which was acquired by EMC Corporation in 2015 for $1.2 billion. The business is now part of Dell Technologies.


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Anthony Levandowski, former Google engineer at center of Waymo-Uber case charged with stealing trade secrets – gpgmail


Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer and serial entrepreneur who was at the center of a trade secrets lawsuit between Uber and Waymo, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on theft of trade secrets.

The indictment, which is posted below, charges Levandowski with 33 counts of theft and attempted theft of trade secrets while working at Google, where he was an engineer and one of the founding members of the group that worked on Google’s self-driving car project. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on August 27 at 1:30 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael M. Cousins.

If convicted, Levandowski faces a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, for each violation.

gpgmail has reached out to Pronto AI, Levandowksi’s new startup, for comment. We will update the story once the company, Levandowksi or his attorneys respond.

The charges stem from Levandowski’s time at Google’s self-driving project, where he led its light detecting and ranging (lidar) engineering team, according to the indictment. The indictment alleges that in the months before his departure, Levandowski downloaded from secure Google repositories numerous engineering, manufacturing, and business files related to Google’s custom lidar and self-driving car technology. Levandowski worked on the project from 2009 until he resigned from Google without notice on January 27, 2016.

Levandowski left Google and started Otto, a self-driving trucking company that was then bought by Uber. Waymo later sued Uber for trade secret theft.

Waymo alleged in the suit, which went to trial, that Levandowski stole trade secrets, which were then used by Uber.  The case went to trial, but was settled in February 2018. Under the settlement, Uber has agreed to not incorporate Waymo’s confidential information into their hardware and software. Uber also agreed to pay a financial settlement which included 0.34% of Uber equity, per its Series G-1 round $72 billion valuation. That calculated at the time to about  $244.8 million in Uber equity.

“We have always believed competition should be fueled by innovation, and we appreciate the work of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI on this case,” a A Waymo spokesperson said in a statement provided to gpgmail.

The prosecution is being handled by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, Northern District of California’s new Corporate Fraud Strike Force and is the result of an investigation by the FBI.

“All of us have the right to change jobs,” said U.S. Attorney David L. Anderson, “none of us has the right to fill our pockets on the way out the door.  Theft is not innovation.”

This is a developing story.

Levandowski Indictment by gpgmail on Scribd


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